Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Daylight, an expedited less-than-truckload carrier, contracts with independent truck drivers. Daylight’s California drivers only provided services within California. The plaintiffs each entered into an “Independent Contractor Service Agreement” before beginning to drive for Daylight and regularly signed materially identical contract extensions while driving for Daylight. All of those Agreements contained an identical arbitration provision. The plaintiffs filed a putative class action, requesting relief from Daylight’s “unlawful misclassification of former and current Daylight delivery drivers as ‘Independent Contractors,’ ” and alleging violations of Labor Code and wage order provisions, and the law against unfair competition.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of Daylight’s motion to compel arbitration, applying California law and finding the agreement procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and that severance of the unconscionable terms is not possible. Daylight was in a superior bargaining position and presented the contracts on a take it or leave it basis. The Agreement’s 120-day limitations period is substantially shorter than the statutory limits. The Agreement permits Daylight to seek a provisional judicial remedy but precludes plaintiffs from equivalent access and requires that the parties split the cost of arbitration, a cost greater than litigation filing fees. Because Daylight had waived its argument, the court did not address preemption under the Federal Arbitration Act, which“provides a limited exemption from FAA coverage to contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce (9 U.S.C. 1). View "Ali v. Daylight Transport, LLC" on Justia Law

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The District appeals from a judgment following a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff, a former employee of the District, on her Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) claims. Plaintiff's claims were based on the District's alleged failure to provide reasonable accommodations for and/or engage in an interactive process to identify reasonable accommodations for two injuries, each of which was sufficient to render plaintiff disabled for the purposes of FEHA.The Court of Appeal agreed with the District that a Government Code section 12940, subdivision (n) plaintiff must prove an available reasonable accommodation. The court also concluded that the evidence presented is sufficient to establish only that a reasonable accommodation of plaintiff's wrist injury, not her shoulder injury, was available. In this case, the jury did not indicate whether it relied on the District's response to one or both of these disabilities in reaching its verdict, and the record does not permit the court to make such a determination. Therefore, the court reversed with instructions that the trial court conduct a new trial on plaintiff's failure to accommodate and interactive process claims based solely on the District's handling of her wrist injury. The court also concluded that the Workers' Compensation Act does not bar such claims, because they seek recovery for a harm that is distinct from the harms for which the Workers' Compensation Act provides a remedy. To the extent plaintiff prevails on limited retrial, the trial court must reassess attorney fees. View "Shirvanyan v. Los Angeles Community College District" on Justia Law

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Miguel Angel Rojas-Cifuentes (Rojas) brought this representative action against his former employer, American Modular Systems, Inc. (AMS), on behalf of himself, other former and current employees of American Modular, and the State of California. Relying on the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), Rojas sought to recover civil penalties for labor violations that AMS allegedly committed against its nonexempt employees. He alleged that the “core” of these violations concerned “the systematic failure to keep accurate time and payroll records, and systematic failure to compensate employees for substantial portions of their workday.” The trial court rejected Rojas’s PAGA claim following AMS' motion for summary judgment. The trial court noted those seeking to bring PAGA causes of action must, before filing suit, provide notice to a certain state agency of the laws the employer allegedly violated and the “facts and theories” supporting those allegations. Although the court found Rojas provided written notice to the state before he filed suit, it found his notice failed to include sufficient facts and theories to support his claims. It thus rejected his PAGA cause of action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. After Rojas filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to set aside the court’s decision, the Court of Appeal directed AMS to show cause why the writ should not be issued. Because, unlike the trial court, the Court found Rojas’s PAGA notice supplied sufficient facts and theories to support at least some of his claims, the Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the trial court to set aside its order granting AMS' motion for summary adjudication. View "Rojas-Cifuentes v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The State entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Union regarding terms and conditions of employment for certain state employees classified as bargaining unit 12. The State subsequently appealed the trial court’s order denying its petition to vacate or correct an arbitration award determining that DWR had violated article 16.7(G) of the MOU by using purged documents to support the adverse disciplinary action taken against the employee.The Court of Appeal concluded that the arbitration award interpreted and enforced article 16.7(G) of the MOU in a manner that constitutes a violation of the constitutional merit principle, because it impedes the ability of state departments to make reasonable and sound employment decisions based on merit. Therefore, the award violated public policy and the trial court erred in denying the petition. The court reversed the trial court's order on the petition and the ensuing judgment, remanding the matter to the trial court with instructions to enter a new order vacating the award. View "Department of Human Resources v. International Union of Operating Engineers" on Justia Law

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Two ambulance employees filed a class action lawsuit against several ambulance entities claiming the entities violated wage and hour laws by requiring the employees to remain on call during their rest breaks. One day after the court denied plaintiffs’ class certification motion, California voters passed Proposition 11, enacting provisions requiring ambulance employees to remain reachable by a communications device during their work shifts, including rest breaks. Plaintiffs challenged the denial of class certification. Defendants opposed these arguments on their merits, and also moved to dismiss the appeal, arguing the claims were moot. The Court of Appeal agreed the appeal was moot and therefore dismissed the appeal. The Court rejected plaintiffs’ contentions that Proposition 11 was not retroactive and/or that a retroactivity finding was unconstitutional because it would interfere with their vested rights. Based on its mootness determination, the Court did not reach the merits of the court’s order denying plaintiffs’ class certification motion, nor did it discuss the factual issues pertaining only to the merits issues. View "Calleros v. Rural Metro of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA) reduced plaintiff's vested retirement benefits under the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), based on a determination by the County that plaintiff's felonious conduct was committed in the scope of his official duties. The trial court issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the County to afford adequate due process protections before reducing plaintiff's retirement benefits, but found in favor of defendants on plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief. On appeal, the Court of Appeal determined that Government Code section 7522.72 is constitutionally sound, but that LACERA, not the County, bears the burden to afford plaintiff the requisite due process protections to determine whether his conviction falls within the scope of that statute.After remand from the California Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal concluded that Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs' Assn. v. Alameda County Employees' Retirement Assn. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 1032, confirms the court's prior holding that section 7522.72's public purpose—to protect the pension system from abusive practices of faithless public employees and preserve public trust in government—justifies any concomitant diminution in plaintiff's pension rights. The court also concluded anew that section 7522.72 need not provide a comparable advantage to offset disadvantages plaintiff may suffer as a result of Legislative changes to the public employee retirement system enacted decades after he began his employment. Finally, the court concluded that section 7522.72 is not an unconstitutional ex post facto law, and that plaintiff is entitled to appropriate administrative due process. Accordingly, the court modified the trial court's judgment, remanded with instructions, and affirmed in all other respects. View "Hipsher v. Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Ass'n" on Justia Law

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The appellants owned Joy Holiday, a travel company operating bus tours for Chinese-speaking travelers. In 2009, Kao, a Taiwanese national, came to the U.S. after accepting a job offer from Joy. Joy filed an H-1B visa application stating it wished to employ Kao at an hourly salary of $29.30. Before receipt of the visa, Kao moved into the appellants’ home and began working for Joy. Kao was paid monthly: $2,500 less $800 for rent. The appellants characterized the payments as an allowance or stipend. Joy’s accountant characterized the payments as salary despite Kao not being on the payroll. Kao received no itemized statements. After receipt of the visa, Kao was put on Joy’s payroll with a $2,500 monthly salary. Kao normally worked 10-12 hours daily. His rent was reduced to $600. In January 2011, Kao was demoted and his salary was reduced to $2,000. Kao moved into an apartment but the payroll records reflect the $600 rent deduction through April 2011. Kao’s employment was terminated in May 2011.Kao filed suit, alleging violations of federal and state law regulating minimum wage and overtime pay, 29 U.S.C. 201; Lab. Code 1194, 1194.2. The court of appeal found that Kao was a non-exempt employee, entitled to recover unpaid wages under his statutory claims and remanded with instructions to calculate the wage and overtime payments for Kao’s entire employment. The court subsequently affirmed the award on remand: $481,088.94 for unpaid wages, attorney fees, and costs, with prejudgment interest. Kao was employed by Joy and it was appropriate to invoke the alter ego doctrine to hold the appellants personally liable. View "Kao v. Joy Holiday" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration of its opinion in light of Ward v. United Airlines, Inc. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 732, and Oman v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 762. In the prior opinion, the court held that Louisiana law governed the employment relationships at issue here. However, after considering the Supreme Court's recent guidance on the matter, the court concluded that California law applies and that the trial court correctly denied petitioner's motion for summary judgment.Ward and Oman establish that California's wage and hour laws apply to workers who perform all or most of their work in California. For workers who perform work in multiple jurisdictions, this test is satisfied if the worker performs some work in California and is based in California. In this case, the crew members of the Adele Elise performed the majority of their work within the boundaries of California. Furthermore, the port of Port Hueneme, where the Adele Elise was docked, and the entire Santa Barbara Channel are inside the state. Therefore, under Ward and Oman, the crew members are entitled to the protection of California law because they performed all or most of their work in California. Finally, the court concluded that there is no preemption. The court denied the petition for writ of mandate. View "Gulf Offshore Logistics, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Staples. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in applying the class action tolling rules articulated in Jolly v. Eli Lilly & Co. (1988) 44 Cal.3d 1103. The court explained that plaintiff was entitled, due to the pendency of the Wesson and Hatgis class certification proceedings, to claim the benefit of the class action tolling rule established by the United States Supreme Court in American Pipe & Construction Co. v. Utah (1974) 414 U.S. 538, as adopted by Jolly. Therefore, with the exception of the claim for failure to furnish accurate itemized wage statements, the trial court erred in ruling that plaintiff's claims were time barred. In this case, because plaintiff concedes his claim for failure to furnish accurate itemized wage statements is time barred, even if tolling applies, the court affirmed the summary adjudication of that claim. The court reversed summary judgment in all other respects. View "Hildebrandt v. Staples the Office Superstore, LLC" on Justia Law

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After the Division issued a citation to an employer, the citation was upheld by the hearing officer and, on reconsideration, by the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board. The employer then filed a second petition for reconsideration by the Board, then filed a petition for writ of mandate in the trial court. On the Board's motion for judgment on the pleadings, the trial court dismissed the writ petition, finding it was not timely filed.The Court of Appeal held that filing a second petition for reconsideration was not permitted when the employer was not newly aggrieved by the decision after the first reconsideration, and the petition for writ of mandate was not timely filed after the Board's decision after the first reconsideration. However, in light of the recent decision in Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Dept. of Public Health (2020) 9 Cal.5th 710 (Saint Francis), the court concluded that the time limitation for filing the writ petition is subject to equitable tolling, and the employer should have been allowed to amend its petition to allege facts supporting application of that doctrine. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment and remanded with directions. View "Ventura Coastal, LLC v. Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law